Sports on screen: Sunderland ‘Til I Die (2018)


There are good documentaries and there are great documentaries, and this week’s subject of Sports on Screen definitely fits into the latter… although perhaps for all the wrong reasons. Football

Sunderland Til I Die is a Netflix football documentary like on other. Last week, we wrote about the popular Amazon series Tottenham Hotspur: All or Nothing. While Tottenham hotspur: All or Nothing is also excellent, it focuses on the positives, omits serious blips like Hugo Lloris’ drinking or Son Heung-Min’s tackle which resulted in a horrendous tackle on Everton’s Andre Gomes. Throughout that documentary, Daniel Levy and Jose Mourinho also come off like your best friends, which they’re really not. That’s because the club ultimately had approval over the content and what made it to screen.  

Sunderland A.F.C. cannot have had even the merest smidgeon of control over this documentary’s content making it to Netflix.  

Whoever signed off on Sunderland Til I Die from the club may have missed a trick, but it makes for an unbelievably ‘warts ‘n’ all’ docuseries look at the former English Premier League club who, after being relegated to The Championship, are determined to make it back to the big time.  

If you don’t follow football and therefore aren’t aware of the fate suffered by Mackems in this season and don’t want to know the result, then now’s the moment to look away. No, not into that reflective surface! Now you’ll be able to see that Sunderland not only fail to regain Premier League status, but in fact get relegated again to League One.   

The fact that the club throw open the doors so welcomingly is both charming and extremely naïve, but in a way, that’s perfectly suited to the documentary, because many parts of the team perform the same way. On the pitch and off the pitch, the Sunderland lads seem a decent bunch. Maybe not quite good enough for the Premier League, but not bad enough for League One.  

That is, apart from Darron Gibson.  

Sadly for Sunderland fans, Gibson is a walking disaster from the minute he’s on screen. Ill-displined away from the game, he gets into trouble, angles for a move then sits on a fortune earning a huge wage while contributing very little. It’s the kind of thing that makes hard-working supporters weep into their beer and in Sunderland Til I Die, you can totally see why. 

That’s because the fans are the beating heart of the documentary. Oh, sure, you can enjoy the Chairman’s hijinks, and how relatable he obviously found Season one of The Office when David Brent came along. Hell, he probably thought he was a misunderstood hero. But the fans are the heart and soul of any club and Sunderland have some terrific supporters. They care deeply about every result, but not just about results. They love the blub but sometimes hate the way it’s being run into the ground.  

The area of the North-East is not overly affluent in general, either, so the reality of the club never getting back into the Premier League at the first time of asking is hard to see when it hits the fans. You really care about the supporters throughout the superb documentary and we can’t recommend it enough. It’s ‘binge in one session’ great and whether you love sport or can’t stand it, you will be skipping past the credits to the next episode until you’ve wolfed down the lot.  

You can watch Sunderland Til I Die right here on Netflix.